Monday, December 31, 2012

Trip to Agartala-Unakoti : December 2011

Ujjayanta Palace in Agartala seen through the gate
After the completion of our Nagaland trip, we were to proceed to Imphal by road and then to Mizoram before arriving at Agartala for my return journey as I got the cheapest hopping flight from Agartala to Mumbai via Kolkatta. The continuation of road blockades in Manipur compelled us to drop Manipur from our itinerary. This meant that we were to take a detour via Silchar to visit Mizoram. But having lost 2 days in this process, we were not having sufficient days to explore Mizoram before proceeding to Agartala. So I decided to drop Mizoram as well from my itinerary in favour of exploring Tripura in detail.  KS decided to visit Mizoram and Meghalaya after the end of our Tripura trip. So what was intended to be a transit trip to Agartala became almost like a full-fledge trip to Tripura. At the end of Tripura trip, we both were happy that our extended stay in Agartala gave us opportunity to visit some exotic places in Tripura.

Since we have dropped our visit to Mizoram, we could have directly travelled to Agartala from Lumding-Agartala Express. But being a night train, we would have missed scenic route from Lumding to Badarpur. So  we travelled  by a day train, Barak Valley Express to Silchar (  Barak Valley Express - A Scenic Train Journey ). After spending a night at Silchar,  we boarded Silchar-Agartala Passenger train for Agartala, the next day. The train was scheduled to depart at 10.45 a.m. but left at 11.45 a.m. We were told by regular passengers that this train had no fix timing and ran late almost every day. A train attendant later told me that most of the meter gauge trains in Lumding Division run late due to old coaches, non-availability of running and maintenance staff, non-availability of spare parts and the topography of the routes. We had booked in AC Chair Car as all other coaches were general compartments in  which I was not keen to travel. Being an old type of AC coach, the AC worked only when train was in motion. Not that it mattered much as the weather was pleasant.   The train reached Agartala at 10.45 p.m. as against the schedule time of 8.00 p.m. One of the passengers told us that we were lucky today as a day before, this train had reached Agartala at 1.00 a.m.! Agartala railway station with its palace like building looked great.

There were plenty of auto rickshaws available outside Agartala railway station. However, we were approached by a Omni driver who offered  to drop us at Ginger Hotel (12 kms from railway station) where we had reservation, for Rs.200/- which we gladly accepted. Probably, he was keen to return to his base in the city centre after dropping some passengers at the railway station. We checked in the Hotel by which time, its restaurant was closed. Luckily, KS had some stock of thepla ( thin dry parathas made up of  fenugreek leaves mashed in wheat and  gram flours mix) which we ate in lieu of dinner and   retired to the bed.
Karimganj Jn is on the Lumding/Silchar-Agartala meter gauge railway line and the railway station is close to Bangladesh border.

Agartala railway station

Day-1 : For Tripura trip, we had not planned any schedule for visiting tourist places. So after breakfast at Ginger’s restaurant (Rs.150/- for buffet breakfast), we consulted the hotel’s travel desk about planning sightseeing trips in around Agartala. Mr Biswas who was actually outsourced by Ginger Hotel to manage their travel desk, suggested to do Sipahijela Zoo- Neer Mahal-Udaipur and end with visits to a couple of temples in Agartala. After some negotiation, he agreed for Rs.1800/- ( all inclusive) for full day trip.

We started from hotel at 10.00 a.m for Sepahijala Zoo located inside the wildlife sanctruary which was 35 kms south of Agartala off NH44. The road was in excellent condition. Our intention was only to take a leisure walk in the forest of the sanctuary to see the Zoo which had clouded Leopard, spectacle monkeys among other animals. The zoo was well maintained and I was happy to see that most of the wild animals had enough moving spaces within the enclosures, some of whom had open enclosures.  The sanctuary has botanical park which we did not visit for want of time. There is a food stall at the gate of the Zoo serving tea/coffee and some snacks.

Road inside Sephaijal Wildlife Sanctuary, 25 kms from Agartala

Clouded leopard in Sephaijal Zoo.

Spectacle monkeys in Sephaijal Zoo.

Our next destination was Neer Mahal one of the most visited tourist places in Tripura. Our car dropped us at the jetty on the Rudrasagar lake in Melaghar for taking a boat to Neer Mahal which is located in the midst of the lake.  Since it was the lunch time for the boatmen of normal ferry, we had to hire a full boat for two of us for Rs.180/- including the return ferry. It took about 20 minutes to reach the Neer Mahal jetty. The Rudrasagar lake is very vast and attracts a lot of migratory birds.

Neer Mahal was constructed by  Maharaja Birbikram Kishoe Manikya Bahadur in 1930 as a summer palace on the lines of Jal Mahal in Udaipur (Rajsathan). There are two wings in the palace – the western wing is exclusively for the royal family, while the eastern wing was meant for the cultural events and also the residence for the employees and securities guards. Going by the structure of the domes, the red and white coloured palace is built on Indo-Islamic style of architecture. In the western wing, there is a well maintained garden. Presently, none of the members of the erstwhile royal family stays here. There is a proposal to convert this palace into a museum depicting the royal history of Tripura.  After spending about 40 minutes, we boarded the same boat to return to Melaghar. 

Road to Melghat for Neer Mahal

A street scene with compound walls made of bamboos and canes on way to Melghat.

Rudra Sagar lake with Neer Mahal in the background

A panorama of Neer Mahal with its reflection on Rudra Sagar lake.

The entrance gate to Neer Mahal

Inside Royal wing of Neer Mahal

View of  Security and Servants' wing from Royal wing of Neer Mahal

View of boat jetty of  Neer Mahal from Royal wing.

Boats ferrying visitors to Neer Mahal. In the background is Tripura Tourism's Sagar Mahal Tourist Lodge.
Our next stop was at Tripura Sundari Devi temple also known as Maa Tripureshwari which is located about 3 kms from Udaipur town and around 55 kms from Agartala.  This temple is regarded as one among 51 pithasthanas (shakhti peeths) in India. This temple was built by Maharaja Dhanya Manikya at the beginning of 16th Century AD. The temple has been constructed in the shape of a typical Bengali hut with a conical dome on the top of the temple. In front of the temple complex across the road is a lake known as Kalyan Sagar which is full of fishes and tortoises as fishing is prohibited in the lake. By the time our return journey started, the sun has already set in. On our way back to hotel, we stopped at Laxmi Narayan temple located at the entrance of Ujjayanta Palace and Jagannath temple in Agartala. The temple is located on the banks of Dighi Lake. The striking features of this temple are the use of muslim architecture style with 3-4 storied shikaras. As the name suggests, Balibadra, Subhadra and Krishna are the main deities. The idols look like a replica of the famous Jagannath temple of Puri. Inside the temple complex  are the colourful sculptures and paintings depicting the life of Lord Krishna.

Tripurasundari (Matabari) temple, near Udaipur

Deity of Tripurasundari in the form of Goddess Durga

Kamalasagar Lake seen from Matabari temple complex.

A Kingfisher with a small fish in its beek at Kamalasagar lake.

Jagannath Temple dome seen through the gate, Agartala

Jaggannath temple deities. Lord Jaggannath is called here as Neelmadhav

Day-2 : Visit to Unakoti
We had almost given up our hope of visiting Unakoti for rock cut carvings and images as a day trip due to Gate system on NH.44 (Agartala-Shillong road). The first gate opens at 8.00 a.m. and the last gate for return journey being at 4.00 p.m. With 178+178 kms of to and fro journey to be covered on a hill road, we were cutting too fine for doing this journey as a day trip  with a handicap of gate system. Generally, car hire package for Unakoti is for two days with an overnight halt at Kumarghat or Kailashahar, the gateways to Unakoti. The gate system has been in force for the last few years as out of 178 kms of journey, about 100 kms of road journey is fraught with the risk of facing highway robbers and ultras especially from late evening to early morning. The topography on both sides of the road devoid of inhabitation with dense forest gives a perfect setting for an ambush.
Mr Biswas of Travel Desk at Ginger Hotel gave us good news when we return from the day trip around Agartala that due to some site visits at the border of Tripura and Meghalaya by the Government officials, they would be getting armed police escorts of Tripura State Rifles in which case the gate system's restrictive timings would not be applicable.  Since the Government officials have hired a car from Mr Biswas for the site visit, the car carrying us can join the escorts to make it a day trip by starting the journey early in the morning. This was indeed a good news for us. We hired Biswas’s Indica car (Rs.3600/-) for a day trip to Unakoti.
We got up at around 5.00 a.m. and were ready in the hotel lobby by 6.00 a.m. to proceed. Our car (Indica) was ready but the Government officials car with escorts reached  near our hotel around 6.30 a.m. when our car joined the escort. The jeep escort of 4 policemen with assault rifles drove just ahead of our cars with another jeep with the same number of policemen with assault rifles in the back. After making the petrol tank full of both the vehicles, our actual journey on NH.44 started around 7.00 a.m. The road was in good condition even though it was a zig zag road on a hilly track. There was not much of traffic as the gate had not yet opened for other vehicles. Since we had started journey without having even a cup of tea and breakfast, we stopped at a dabha after about one hour of journey for breakfast of puri-sabji and samosas.
The road journey is very scenic with dense forest on both sides of the road. Somewhere in the mid point of the journey, one of the tyres of our car punctured. Luckily, we were near some town having a  repair shop for tyre punctures. However, it took about one hour to complete the work as it was noticed that the spare car tyre had also punctured. Once we reached Kumarghat, the police escorts left us and went ahead on the NH.44 while we took a left turn for Unakoti. In any case we were now out of the sensitive area. We reached Unakoti around 12.30 p.m. via Kailashahar, the head quarters of North Tripura district taking about 5 hours 30 minutes as against the usual 4 hours required for travelling here.  A walk of about 200m from the road took us to the gate of Unakoti hills.
According to Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the rock cuts and stone images belong sometime between 7th and 9th century AD. It is a Shaivite pilgrim centre. From the entrance, one can see a huge Shiva rock cut with a height of nearly 30 feet. Just after a few steps inside the Unakoti hills, there is one more huge Shiva rock cut out with the rock cut image of Durga on one side and another female image on the other side. Below these rock cut images is a giant rock cut bull. Rest of the minor rock cut images are in the midst of dense forest. In my view, the most outstanding rock cut image is that of Ganesh which has been carved on a rock at the lower end of the stream flowing from a place below the rock cut images of Shiva. I can visualise as to how this Ganesh images may look in rainy season when the stream would gently fall vertically as a waterfall behind which the image of Ganesh is carved. It may perhaps look like as if a kind of ‘abhishek’ is offered to Lord Ganesh.
I am sure, in the rainy season, Unakoti hills may look more beautiful with greenery and numerous waterfalls than other times of the year. There could also be some trekking possibilities as the entire area is a hilly terrain with dense forest. After spending about 45 minutes, we commenced our return journey at 1.15 p.m. At Kumarghat, we took a lunch break and waited for the police escort to join us. Realising that we had sufficient time to cross the last gate at 4.00 p.m., we informed Biswas who was in a car with Government officials that we were proceeding ahead and in case we are not in a position to cross the last gate at 4.00 p.m. we would wait there for the police escort. We did not face this situation as we crossed the gate well before 4.00 p.m. and reached our hotel by 6.30 p.m.
By the way, those tourists coming from Silchar can catch Silchar-Agartala Passenger and alight at Kumarghat railway station in the evening. After staying overnight either at Kumarghat or Kailashahar, next day, sight seeing at Unakoti can be completed before noon for onward journey to Agartala  by road thus saving a day. We realised this only after reaching Agartala

A short stop over almost half way to Unakoti. The police escort on the left can be seen.

Unakoti is just one km from the diversion to the left.

One of the two giant rock carved statues of Shiva seen from the entrance to Unakoti complex

One more of  Shiva sculpture with Nandi in the foreground (right) seen from a distance.

More rock carved sculptures​. One on the right is that of Shiva

These stone carved deities, including that of Lord Ganesh are at the lower end of the complex.

Day-3 : In Agartala
Today was kept as an extra day to take care of unforeseen eventuality. In the event, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise as we could see Agartala city in day time.  The morning started with dense fog engulfing the city. Since we had not schedule visits for the day, after breakfast, we first visited the Reliance Service Centre for KS to check out as to whether his Reliance data card would operate in other states in North-East – Mizoram and Meghalaya. The Reliance centre opened at 10.30 a.m. and the outcome of his query was disappointing as his CDMA data card would not work anywhere in north-east states. Agartala railway station was our next destination to try to make reservation for KS in an early morning train to Darma Nagar for his onward journey to Silchar and then to Aizwal in Mizoram. Again the visit was futile as the tickets were wait listed.
From railway station, we decided to revisit Ujjayanta Palace and Jagannath temple as we had seen these places in the night.  These places were worthy of day visit as we could spend about an hour or so to see the Palace as well as the temple. Ujjayanta Palace was under restoration for the last one year and entry inside the Palace was prohibhited. We returned to our hotel for lunch after which we  packed our suitcases and rested for the day as the due to smog and winter months, night sets in Agartala as early as 4.30 p.m.

Entrance to Ujjaynta Palace, Agartala
Ujjayanta Palace seen from the entrance

wooden doors of the main entrance of Ujjayanta Palace.

One of two big lakes by the side of Udayantara Palace (partly hidden by a tree on the right). Some part of Ujjayanta Palace serves as Tripura State Legislativ​e Assembly meeting place.

Tripura Tourism's Geentanjli Hotel, Agartala. The room tarrif is more or less the same as that of Ginger Hotel.

Day-4 : Agartala-Kolkatta-Mumbai

We got up early as KS was to catch 6.45 a.m. train from Agartala railway station for Darma Nagar. In the previous day, he had made an arrangement with an auto rickshaw to pick him from the hotel at 5.30 p.m. Auto driver came in time to pick him from the hotel. Luckily he got a seat in unreserved compartment. The check out time in the hotel was 12 noon but the hotel permitted me to stay up to 2.00 p.m. as my flight was scheduled to depart from Agartala for Kolkatta at 4.30 p.m. I checked out from the hotel at 1.30 p.m. and took an auto rickshaw parked outside the hotel for airport drop (Rs.100/-) which he did it within 15 minutes. Agartala airport is very small and congested. It was a good decision of mine to reach ahead of scheduled reporting time as I could check in within 5 minutes while those who came as per scheduled time had a long wait for check in. The flight left in time and reached Kolkatta at 5.25 p.m. I had enough time to catch Kolkatta-Mumbai flight which was scheduled to depart at 6.30 p.m.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Trip to Hampi - January 2012

There was an excitement at the end of our two-day Trip to Goa as we were eagerly looking forward to one of the most popular World Heritage Sites of India – Hampi.  This was the trip which we were planning for the last 4 years and was at the top of our wish list but did not fructify even though we had visited Karnataka almost every year.

24/01/2012 : We left GTDC’s Margoa Residency at 6.45 a.m under the impression that it may take some time to get an auto rickshaw or taxi to drop us at Madgaon Railway for catching 7.45 a.m. Vasco-Howrah Express for Hospet. We were pleasantly surprised to get an auto rickshaw immediately.  After our umpteen visits to Goa, we had come to conclusion that 7.00 a.m. was too early in Goa for the start of the businesses – be restaurants, shops or even auto rickshaws. Things seem to have changed now for the better. The auto dropped us at Madgaon Railway Station (3kms, Rs.80/-). The train departed on scheduled time. On the way, we saw the famous Doodhsagar fall near Castle Rock railway station. The train reached Hospet around 3.30 p.m. – half an hour late. We picked up an auto rickshaw  from the queue outside the railway station for a drop to KTDC’s Hotel Bhuvaneshari at Kamalapur (Rs.150/-, 11 kms). We checked in the hotel at 4.00 p.m.

Since we had about 2 hours at our disposal before the sunset, we retained the auto rickshaw for visiting some famous historical places around Kamalapur. We first visited Bheem Gate and Ganajitti Jain temple complex which were in walking distance from our hotel. These places did not take much time to explore. Next was the Malyavanta Hill  which was famous for Raghunatha temple and sunset view. Malyavanta Hill is supposed to be a place where Ram and Lakshman made their temporary abode during the monsoon. Raghunatha temple is located on the summit of Malayvanta Hill. The deities in the temple – Ram Lakshman, Sita and Hanuman are still worshipped here. The backside of the temple complex (western side) leads to a large rocky slab on which reliefs of lingas and nandis are lined parallel to each others. Just 100 m ahead on the rocky path is the place for viewing the settlements around Hampi and more importantly a magnificent sunset  in the evening. After viewing the sunset, we returned to our hotel by 6.30 p.m.

Pictures of the day's outing are uploaded below with captions.

Kamalapur Lake. The road on the left goes to Kamalapur. We stayed in KTDC's Hotel Bhuvaneshwari  located in Kamalapur.

Inside Bheem's Gate in Kamalapur. Scene of Bheem killing Keechak and Draupadi (left) tying her hair as part of her oath. Draupadi had taken an oath that she will tie her hair only washed with Kichaka's blood as he had tried to molest her.

Ganagitti Jain temple complex near Bheem's Gate, Kamalapur. Both these places are within the walking distance from KTDC's Hotel Bhuvaneshwari.

The gopuram gate of Raghunatha temple complex at Malyavanta Hill in Kamalapur side of Hampi. 

Raghunatha temple complex is surrounded by  rocks and boulders hills. This is a view from the entrance of  the  temple complex. 

There are monkeys  around Raghunatha temnple but they  did not create nuisance for tourists. Here two monkeys are sitting on a gopuram of Raghunatha temple.

Dwarpals depicted on the gopuram of Raghunatha temple.

Carved pillars of the mandap inside Raghunatha temple complex.

This is one of the most common relief carvings one can see on the pillars of mandapas of temples in Hampi. The image looks like half lion and man. This one was on one of the pillars of mandapa in Raghunatha temple complex.

Stone carving depicting Kali Mardan by Krishna on one of the pillars of mandapas of Raghunatha temple complex.

Deities of Lord Ram and Sita ( middle and right) with Laxman on the left. Hanuman is on the left of Laxman which could not be covered by my camera. It is claimed that Raghunatha temple is the only one in India with Lord Ram  in a sitting pose. The deities are below a protruding rock above which the tower of the temple is constructed.

View of the Raghunatha temple from Malyavanta Hill (back side). The huge boulder protrudes over the dieties and the temple tower is constructed above the boulder.

Natural splitting of a rock into two with carvings of Nandis and lingas. In the middle, water flows from some underground source.

These were the only few visitors to view sunset from Malyavanta HIl. Actually the colour of the rocks and boulders is brown as one can see in the foreground. But the evening sunrays have given a yellowish ting to the boulder in the background.

There are ample vintage points in terms of boulders to view sunset from Malyavanta Hill. But some points are risky as this one where some tourists are sitting to view sunset. 

Sunset view from Malyavanta Hill

25/01/2012 : After breakfast at KTDC’s restaurant, we engaged an auto rickshaw (Rs.700/-) for a full day tour of temples and monuments around Hampi and commenced the tour at 8.30 a.m. Within 15 minutes, we were at the road end for vehicles, about 2 kms from Vitthal temple complex.  One can park the vehicles here and take the battery operated small cars (Rs.20/- per person for both ways) to the temple complex gate. The gate opening time is 9.00 a.m. and entry fee is Rs.10/- per head valid for Vitthal temple, Hazara Ram temple and Kamalapur Museum. There are authorised guides available at the temple for full day temples and heritage sites of Hampi. The charges vary from Rs.500/- to Rs.1000/- depending upon the number of temples and monuments to be covered.

The Vitthal temple complex consists of three main pavilions (mandaps) apart from the main temple sanctum of which is now empty with a cracked ceiling and other destruction carried probably by the invaders. The three main mandaps are Kalyan Mandap (marriage and other religious functions), Sabha Mandap (meeting place) and Sangeet Mandap (musical concert hall). All these mandaps have heavily carved stone pillars depicting the events of Ramayan, Mahabharat and even some social events. Sangeet Mandap has musical pillars attached to the main pillars. There is a garuda temple in the shape of a chariot in the complex. It is a big temple complex and those interested in stone carvings and architecture may require at least 2 hours to fully explore the temple.

On the southern side of the Vithal temple complex is a pathway that leads to King’s Balance. A further 100 meters of walk leads to the banks of Tungbhadra river where there is a mandap, supposed to be the abode of Sant Purandara Dasa, the poet and the musician of the Vijaynagar court during 16th century. We took a coracle ride in the river for about 10 minutes. We returned to the car parking area after taking the battery operated car and proceeded to Kamalapur Museum which houses the rare treasurers of Hampi ruins unearthed during the exploration. It took about one hour for us to complete the museum round including viewing some bigger stone carvings kept outside the museum complex.

Other ruins and temples which  which was in my  ‘must see’ category for the day were Hazara Ram temple and  Mahanavami Dibba for exquisite carvings on the walls, stepped well,  Zanana bathing centre, Lotus Mahal,  Elephant enclosures, Guard’s place which has now been converted into yet another museum, Monolith Narsimha, Badavlinga temple (submerged monolith shivling) etc. These are all part of Royal Enclosure.  After completing all these visits, we took lunch at Mango Tree (highly recommended for traditional and continental menus).

After lunch, we proceeded to Virupaksha temple which is  located at the centre of Hampi Bazar - the most happening area of Hampi. Being the main worshipping temple in Hampi, it is somewhat more crowded by devotees apart from tourists. The main gopuram of the temple faces the old time Hampi Bazar. Just outside the Northern gopuram lays the Manmatha Tank and a few subsidiary temples. The main deity of the temple is Virupaksha or Pampadevi (Parvati).  All the mandaps inside the temple complex have the typical Vijaynagar architecture and heavy carvings on the pillars. All the outer pillars depict the sculpture of Yali. The highlights of the main shrine mandap called rangamandap  is its ceiling covered with frescoes of various mythological events.

This temple round took us about one hour to explore but being a huge temple complex, I am sure we would have missed some areas. Since it was getting dark, we had to call it a day. We returned to our hotel around 6.00 p.m. after making a brief halt at Hemkunta Hill. 

Pictures of the day’s visit with captioned are uploaded below.  

Car parking for those visiting Vitthala temple complex is located some 2 kms from the complex. After parking the cars, one has to take one of this battery operated car to rech up to the gate of Vitthala temple or alternatively walk down 2 kms to the gate. The same car takes you back to the car park.

The damaged gopuram ( tower gate) to Vitthala temple.

A panoramic view of Vitthala temple complex. From left to right : Sabha Mandap, Sangeet (Musical Concert) Mandap and the Chariot.

Chariot and another Mandap from another angle inside Vitthala temple complex.

Vitthala temple chariot from another angle. Garuda idol is inside the chariot.

A more or less set pattern of carvings was observed on the base of any Mandapas in Hampi. The down panels will have carvings relating to army followed by some carvings of design as we move up followed by carving of bangles and then middle panels will have carvings relating to social activities such as dances, sports, hunting etc.

One of the Mandapa base reliefs in Vitthala temple complex. The middle one depicts dandiya dance, while the down relief depicts bangle design.

 Sangeet Mandapa with musical pillars in Vittthala temple complex. Tourists are now prohibited visiting inside this Mandapa as it was observed that many musical pillars had been damaged by visitors while trying to hear music by hitting them with hard objects like pebbles.

The figure of Yali (mythical lion) in Sabha Mandap of Vitthal temple.  Yali dominates almost all the main pillars of madapas in Hampi.temples.

A parakeet on a 150 year old Champa flower tree in Vitthala temple complex. There were a dozen parakeet on this tree for most of the time.

 Stone carving on the ceiling of a Mandapa of three heads and four persons in Vitthala temple complex.

Wicket-keeper in 16th century ?
Na, it is some kind of sport from one of the far-east countries depicted on one of the pillars of the Mandapas in Vithtala temple complex. Like annual musical and dance festivals, Vijaynagar kingdom used to hold annual sports competitions for which sportsman from different countries used to participate.

Break dance. Vijaynager kingdom used to have music and dance festival in which dancers were invited across the world.

Two animals in one carving. Looking from the left, it is a bull and when looked from the right it is an elephant.

Stone carving depicting Ravan on one of the pillars of Mandapas in Vitthala temple complex.

Normally, carvings on the pillars depict stories from Ramayan and Mahabharat. This carving on one of the pillars of mandaps in Vitthala temple complex appears to be that of one of the Jain Thirthankars.
A damaged gateway to King's Balance near Vitthala temple.

King's Balance near Vitthala Temple.

Remains of the stone pillars of a bridge over Tungabadra river (in the foreground) constructed during 16th century. Tungabadra flows behind Vitthala temple complex.

Purandar Dasa Mandap at the banks of Tungbhadra river. It is said that many of his devotional songs were written in this serene place. In the background (on the right) is Hanuman Hill (Anjeneya Hill) where a temple of Hanuman is located on the top of the hillock.

A coracle ride in Tungbadra river. One can take this ride from Vitthala temple to Achyutraya temple. Another option is to take a walk of about 2 kms.

Some of the pillars and idols found during excavations in Hampi have been used in Kamalapur Museum Complex.

Queen's Bath inside Royal Enclosure.

Huge stone doors of the Royal Enclosures lying outside Mahanavami Dibba.

A side view of the Mahanavami Dibba (Navaratri Platform). Only the high rise base remains of what was once a big pavilion for royal family and guest to watch the Dassera procession.

Carved side wall of Mahanavami Dibba

Close up of carvings showing hunting and , wrestling on the side wall of Mahanavami Dibba.

Panel on a wall of Mahanavami Dibba showing courtesans dancing during Vasantotsava (Spring festival).

Stone carvings on a panel depicting procession of elephants during Mahanavami (Dussera) festival.

Stone carving on a wall of Mahanavami Dibba showing a Vijaynagar king witnessing a festival.

A bird's eye view from Mahanavami Dibba. On the left is the top of the stepped well; in the middle is the open stone water channel carry water and on the right is the bathing pool now dried. 

Stepped Tank in the Royal  Enclosure. The water supply used to come from open channel made of stone slabs ( top). 

Stone aqueduct for water supply to stepped tank and to the palaces inside Mahanavami Dibba complex.

Stone carved panels depicting, animals, processions, other social activities, dances etc. on the outer wall of Hazara Ram temple.

Panels depicting Shravan episodes of Ramayan inside Hazara Ram temple complex.

Four black stone pillars with their exquisite carvings of many gods including Vishnu in some avataras in the centre of the mandapa of the main shrine inside Hazara Ram temple.

Relief carvings on a wall of Hazara Ram temple.

An exquisite carving adorning one of Hazara Ram temple walls.

Lotus Mahal. The two storied is almost square on the base but has recessed sides. The ground floor has ornate plinth on the base of which arches are supported by 24 square pillars. Note the balconies on the upper floor and pyramid type sikharas

Masonry designs on the arches of Lotus Mahal show the Islamic influences. The muslim Bahami Kingdom was in the neighbourhood of Vijaynagar Kingdom. So it is quite possible that muslim artists from Bahami Kingdom may have been employed during its construction.

The arches of Lotus Mahal.

Octagonal watchtower in the Zanana (ladies') Enclosure. There were 4 such watchtowers in the four corners of the Zanana Enclosure manned by transgenders as a part of security inside Zanana Enclosure.

An arcade type structure on the parade ground which could probably may have been used as a viewing gallery now houses the museum.

Sculpture of Seshashayee in the museum. There are many sculptures in the museum on display.

Elephant stables located outside Zanana Enclosure.Each dome on the either side of the centre point is different probably depicting Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist architectures. A part of the central raised structure is damaged probably used by drummers and musicians during the march past parade. In the foreground is the parade ground when King's army would give a march past.

Monolithic Narasimha sculpture.

Monolith shivling Jala Khandeshvaran. It is also called as Badavlinga ( meaning poor man's linga) as it was stated to be commissioned by a poor peasant woman. The base of the shivlinga is always submerged in water.

2.4 meter high monolithic sculpture of Sasivekalu (Mustard seed) Ganesh.

A zoom shot of boat ferry points from Vittala temple side to the other side of Tungabadra river. After crossing the river, the hill top Hanuman (Anjeyandri) temple is hardly 5 kms by road. A drive from Hampi to Hanuman temple via Hospet is about 45 kms.

Virupaksha temple's main gopuram seen from the temple.

Virupaksha temple mandapa with exquisite carvings with yali pillars.

Terracotta work on the roof of the mandapa of Virupaksha temple.

One of the frescoes on the ceiling of mandapa of Virupaksha temple.

Virupaksha temple complex seen from the steps leading to Hemkuta Hill.

Columned mandapa of the Kodalekalu Ganesh shrine near Hemkunta Hill.

4.5 meter high Kadalekalu (gram) Ganesh shrine near Hemkunta Hill. 

26/01/2012 :  The day was planned for a visit to Anegondi village (the place is also indentified with  Kishkindha of Ramayan fame) across Tungabhadra river to explore the area famous for  Anjeyandri (Hanuman) temple, Pampa Sarovar, Chintamani temple complex etc. The shortest way to reach Anegondi is to cross Tungabadra river at the backside of Virupaksha temple by boat or coracle and take an auto to reach the village which is about 5 kms from the river crossing point. But there is no guarantee to get an auto rickshaw immediately. Those who wish to enjoy the beautiful landscape and also plan to visit Tungabhadra Dam, they can take a circuitous route  involving about 45 kms of road travel via Hospet. We preferred the road journey and accordingly, we arranged with the same auto rickshaw man who had taken us for the sight-seeing in Hampi temples and ruins on the previous day. For such a long distance, we would have preferred to hire a car but to get a car on hire in Hampi at the last moment was a difficult proposition. Fortunately for us, the journey by auto rickshaw was a smooth affair as except for a small distance on the National Highway after Hospet, there was  not much traffic on the village road till Anegondi.

The highlight of the road journey was the beautiful landscape after the the road bifurcated to the right off the National Highway. The single lane road which was in good condition passed through the lush green paddy fields with hardly any traffic  and this scenery continued until we reach the base of the Anjeynadri Hill in Anegondi. It was nice to see these paddy fields in the midst of boulders strewn small hills. The whole journey took about one and a half hour. The construction of Tungabhadra dam water has changed the complexion of this boulder region and it has now become a rice bowl area.

From the base, it is a climb of about 500 uneven steep steps to reach the Anjeyendri Hill top where the temple of Hanuman is located. At the top we were welcomed by a group of docile monkeys who did not trouble visitors. It is said that Hanuman was born at this place. There were many devotees mostly from the north India who came here probably as a part of the pilgrimage circuit trip. From the hill top, we had 360 degree view - vast expanse of lush green paddy fields, Vitthala temple complex across the river and even the distanced Hospet city.

The next in our itinerary was Pampa Sarovar which was about 3 kms from the base of Ajeyanadri Hill. Pampa Sarovar is considered one of the five holy lakes to be visited by a devotee Hindu. The lake was almost fully covered with lotus plants. A temple dedicated to Shiva and Parvati stood opposite of Pampa Sarovar. After visiting Durga temple, we visited Chintamani temple complex. There was a cave created by a big boulder which is said to be the place where Lord Ram met Sugreeva and Hanuman to chalk out the strategies to confront Vali, Sugreeva’s brother.

My impression of the visit to Anegondi is that it is more of a pilgrimage centre where devotees outnumber the tourists. Those who come after visiting Hampi temples and ruins may find this place a bit disappointing. But for pilgrims,  this is a great and religiously significant place for a day visit.  

We returned to our hotel in Kamalapur by 5.00 p.m. after spending some time in the vicinity of Tungabhadra dam on the way back.

27/01/2012 : It was our check out day at 12 noon and we had planned to stay overnight in Hospet to catch the next day’s early morning train to Hubli. Hence, after breakfast, we deposited our baggage at the reception counter of Bhuvaneshwari Hotel and hired one of the  auto rickshaws parked outside the hotel lobby for  visiting  the important remaining ruins and temples at Hampi. The same auto rickshaw was to drop us at Hospet in the evening (total package of Rs.900/-).

We started our day’s trip with a climb to Matanga Hill near Hampi Bazar. Contrary to my expectation, the climb was a challenging one with uneven and slippery stone stairs followed by boulder hopping. The last 50 metres or so was tough to climb as it was on a big flat boulder. Despite some rock cut steps, I was finding  it difficult to climb as my shoes started slipping. So I had to clamber on the rock with the support of my hands until I reached the top. It was a worthwhile effort. From the hill top one could get a bird’s eye view of almost all of Hampi’s heritage sites – Virupakhsa temple with Hampi Bazar, Hemkund Hills, Courtesan street leading to Achyutraya temple with Pushkarni Tank and Anjeyandari Hill. The descending from the Matanga Hills was even more difficult. It took us about one hour to climb and descend the Matanga Hills.

After visiting Monolith Bull which is located at the other end of the Hampi Bazar and at the base of Matanga Hill, we proceeded towards Kodandarama temple located at the banks of Tungabhadra river. This is a worshipping temple of Rama, Lakshman and Sita. Photography inside the temple is prohibited. Religiously, this temple is a significant one though architecturally, its structure looks ordinary when compared with Virupaksha temple. There is a bathing ghat  known as Chkaratirtha in front of the temple. There are some old and depleted pavilions by the side of the temple which during olden days used to serve as the resting places for pilgrims. Apart of bathing in Tungabhadra river, the place was also being used as a washing ghat – a pathetic scene to see the river being polluted.  

Behind Kodandarama temple on a tiny hill is the temple of Yantrodharaka Anjeynaya (Hanuman) worshipped as a Yantra which looks like a big clock dial. Photography is prohibited in this temple and the visitors are expected observe silence while praying. There are one or two subsidiary temples in the vicinity but we skipped to spend more time in Achyutraya temple complex, a walking distance from Kodandarama temple.

After walking on the Courtesan Street - the widest in Hampi planked by  stony pavilions on both the sides of the street, we entered Achyutraya temple complex through the damaged gopuram at the end of the street. The main temple is located in the middle of two courtyards which have verandah like mandaps with carved pillars in usual Vijaynagar architectural style. There are subsidiary smaller gates inside the temple complex with heavy carvings of mythological stories from Ramayan, Mahabharat and also depicting Vishnu Avatars. For a full exploration of the temple complex and minutely observing relief carvings, one may require at least two hours to spend here. As with any big temple, there is Pushkarni Tank just outside the temple but it is now a dry tank.

Our next visit was Krishna temple located just outside the main Hampi road. Architecturally, the temple is built more or less on the same Vijayanagar style. What I found somewhat unique was most of the terracotta sculptures above the stone base of the gate as well as the temple are still intact and they are magnificent sculptures. The Yali pillars of mandaps with exquisite carvings are very impressive. Just opposite the temple on the other side of the main Hampi road is the old depleted pavilions of Krishna Bazar. We spend about half-an- hour though one may require to spend at least one hour to fully appreciate the carvings and sculptures.

On our way back to Hotel, we visited the underground Shiva temple and Pattabhirama temple. A part of the shivling inside the underground Shiva temple is always submerged in water which comes from a spring. In fact, we were required to wade through water in the sanctum before reaching to see the shivling. Architecturally, this temple has not much to offer. Pattabhirama temple in Kamalapur is a huge temple complex but its architecture and carvings on walls and pillars are more or less the repeat of what we had seen in Raghunatha, Vitthala and Achyutraya temples. There are simple carvings on the inner pillars of halls and mandaps but outer pillars are exquisitely carved. There is no need to spend much time here if the visitors have already seen other Hampi temples mentioned above.

We picked up our baggage from the hotel and proceeded in the same auto to Hospet for a night halt. We stayed in Hotel Priyadarshani (Rs.1000/- AC room plus taxes) which was located about two kms from the railway station. The room was spacious and bathroom was clean with hot water geyser available only in the morning hours. We had a south Indian thali dinner in the hotel’s restaurant. The food was very good.  

Pictures with captions taken during our sight-seeing visits for the last two days of our trip are uploaded below.   

Way to Matanga Hill.

The final climb to Matanga Hill. Note the carved out steps on a big rock. There are about 50 such steps before one reaches the top of Matanga Hill.

Virupeksha temple gopuram (towers) seen through the pavilion on the top of Matanga Hill.

View of the ruins of Hampi Bazar and Virupeksha temple (far left in the background) from Matanga Hill.

Pushkarni tank ( now dried up) of Achyutraya temple seen from the Matanga Hill. On the side of it is Courtesan street.

Monolith Bull facing the ruins of Hampi Bazar. It is so giant that it required a pavilion of nearly two story structure to house it.

A squirrel on a make shift stony wall bordering Tungabhadra river on way to Kodandarama temple.

Bathing ghat off Tungabhadra river near Kodandarama temple. On the extreme left on a hill top is Hanuman temple on the other side of the river.

Sculpture of Chakratirtha on the bathing ghat near Kodandarama temple.

Kodandarama temple side view. It is a simple structure but a live temple where daily worship of Ram as Kodandarama (crowned Rama) is done. This is supposed to be a place where Ram crowned Sugreeva as King after killing Bali. Photogrpahy is prohibited inside the temple.

Various stone images kept below a tree in front of Yantrodharaka Anjaneya (Hanuman) temple which is located at the back side of  Kodandarama temple.

Pushkarni Tank of Achyutraya temple.

Gateways to Achyutraya temple. This temple was constructed during King Achyut Devaraya's time hence the name. The main deity was Lord Venketshwara. Now this is a non-functioning temple. This temple complex is huge and has many stone carvings depicting the events from Ramayan and Mahabharat. 

One of the pavilions in the Achyutraya temple complex. Those interested in architecture and carvings may require at least two hours to complete the temple complex round.

One of the gates of Achyutraya temple.

The close-up of the gate with carvings of various Vishnu avatars.

Heavily carved pillars of mandapa of Achyutraya temple.

Looks like a relief carving of Krishna with a flute on the mandapa pillar in Achyutraya temple.

A relief carving of a lady in a dancing pose.

Relief carving of a lady with her long hairs.

The pavilion ruins inside Achyutraya temple. The carvings are intact.

Image of Sheshashayee in Sheshashayee tgemple near Kodandarama temple. This subsidiary temple is located below a huge boulder giving an impression of a cave temple.

Inside Krishna temple complex.

Main gate of Krishna temple. Most of the gopurams and main gates in temples of Hampi have solid stone structure as the base on which brick superstructures come, In this picture, the brick structure is adorned by terracotta images.

Close up of terracotta images on the top of the main gate to Krishna temple.

Close up of one of the terracotta images on the shikara of Krishna temple.

Relief carving on the pillar of Krishna temple.

Close up of a side view of Krishna temple shikara.

Probably the emblem of Vijaynagar Kingdom on a road side opposite Krishna temple.

Underground Shiva temple complex.

This  is the one side of Pattabhtrama temple complex with mandapas. One can imagine as to how this temple complex would be. 

The familiar yali pillars of one of the mandapas of Pattabhirama temple.

Relief carving of Hanuman holding Ram and Seeta on one of the pillars of mandapa of Pattabhirama temple.

Way to Anjaneya (Hanuman) temple which is located over a hill top. This is in Anegundi village which is supposed to be the mythological Kishkinda - the other side of the Hampi which can be reached by crossing Tungabhadra river by a ferry boat and further 3-4 kms by an  auto.

At last just short of the hill top of Anjaneya temple. Initially, there were rocky steps but as we came closure to the hill top, we had to pass through a narrow cave like pathway.

A group of monkey welcomed us as soon as we reached Hanuman temple hill top. Monkeys here were relatively docile than what we had seen in Jaku temple in Shimla. 

Anjaneya (Hanuman) temple. Almost all the pilgrims who made it to the top were from northern states.

View of the Vittala temple complex across Tungabhadra river from  the hill top Hanuman temple.

View of fields seen from hill top Hanuman temple. The road in the middle is the one we used to reach Annegundi.

Unity is strength. Monkeys on a rock near hill top  Hanuman temple.

Pampa (Parvati) Sarovar. This sarovar is one of the four holy sarovars created by Lord Brahma, other 4 sarovars being Mansarovar in Tibet, Pushkar in Rajsathan , Bindu and Narayan sarovars in Gujarat. It is the most sacred place around Hampi for Hindus. There is a functioning Parvati temple just opposite this tank. This tanks is alway covered with lotus leaves.

Shikara of Parvati temple located opposite Pampa Sarovar.

Some carved panels stored on banks of Tungabhadra river on way to Chintamani temple.

An abandoned pavillion on the bank of Tungabhadra river seen from Chintamani temple.

The remains of an old stone supported bridge over Tungabhadra river constructed during Vijayanagar time near Anegundi. Probably it was aqueduct carrying huge quantity of water if one go by the high structure and staking of rectangular shape rock blocks as support pillars.

Tungabhadra dam with backwater. The dam is located just off the National Highway and we visited on our return from Annegundi village.

Tungabhadra dam backwater.

Tungbhadra dam garden.

Sunrise amidst morning mist over Hospet Jn railway station as we wait to catch a train to Hubli for our onward journey to Mumbai.

Next day, we boarded Hampi Express at Hospet at 7.45 a.m. and alighted at Hubli to catch Chaluyka Express for Mumbai. Thus one of the trips in our wish list was completed after a gap of 4 years from day we thought of visiting the place. What a nice feeling to watch these historical monuments. The visit to Hampi momentarily took us in the 16th century during which one of the most formidable and wealthiest kingdoms of south India ruled this region. During four days we stayed in Hampi, we felt as if we were staying in the 'City of Victory'.

More pictures in my Picasa Web Album.